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Obama's Illinois Record of Accomplishments and Working with the Other side


I've been doing some research into Barack Obama's record during his 8 years in the Illinois State Senate. A NY Times story "In Illinois, Obama Proved Pragmatic and Shrewd" from mid-2007 has some good insights:

Mr. Obama did not bring revolution to Springfield in his eight years in the Senate, the longest chapter in his short public life. But he turned out to be practical and shrewd, a politician capable of playing hardball to win election (he squeezed every opponent out of his first race), a legislator with a sharp eye for an opportunity, a strategist willing to compromise to accomplish things.

It's good to hear that Obama can play hardball because he will certainly need that skill to defeat the overtly negative and subtly racist attacks that will be hurled against him both from Democrats resistant to change and Republicans deeply concerned about an electoral landslide with Obama at the top of the ticket (something they will not be worrying about if Hillary is the Democratic nominee).

At the same time, it does appear that Obama has the ability to reach across the aisle and work with the opposition party to get things done:

He positioned himself early on as a protégé of the powerful Democratic leader, Senator Emil Jones, a beneficiary of the Chicago political machine. He courted collaboration with Republicans. He endured hazing from a few black colleagues, played poker with lobbyists, studiously took up golf.

By the time he left Springfield in 2004, he had built not only the connections necessary to win election to the United States Senate but a record not inconsistent with his lofty rhetoric of consensus building and bipartisanship.

Fixing some of the most pressing problems our country faces will certainly require a degree of bipartisanship although less will be required in an Obama presidency because our majority margins in both houses of Congress are likely to be greater. Still, the Senate has the filibuster rule so we will be better off with a president who does not serve as a lightning rod effectively galvanizing rank-and-file Republicans to oppose each and every initiative that the next president will put forward.

Obama's soaring oratory has been matched with a clear sense of practicality that his opponent accuses him of lacking:

"He came with a huge dose of practicality," said Paul L. Williams, a lobbyist in Springfield and former state representative who is a supporter of Mr. Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Williams characterized Mr. Obama's attitude as, "O.K., that makes sense and sounds great, as I'd like to go to the moon, but right now I've only got enough gas to go this far."

On top of all this Obama has a solid record of achievement in the Illinois Senate that included reaching across the aisle and negotiating difficult legislation like campaign finance reform:

With the assistance of Senator Jones, Mr. Obama helped deliver what is said to have been the first significant campaign finance reform law in Illinois in 25 years. He brought law enforcement groups around to back legislation requiring that homicide interrogations be taped and helped bring about passage of the state's first racial-profiling law. He was a chief sponsor of a law enhancing tax credits for the working poor, played a central role in negotiations over welfare reform and successfully pushed for increasing child care subsidies.

I encourage you to read the entire NY Times story.Also, from early 2007 CBS has a story on his Illinois record. Obama had a solid pro-choice record on abortion:

He had a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his support of abortion rights, family planning services and health insurance coverage for female contraceptives.

He supported gun control but sometimes went against gun control advocates:

Obama regularly supported gun-control measures, including a ban on semiautomatic "assault weapons" and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month.

Obama parted company with gun control advocates when he backed a measure to let retired police officers and military police carry concealed weapons.

The idea that Obama will be a tool of big business isn't supported by examining his Illinois record:

Obama occasionally supported higher taxes, joining other Democrats in pushing to raise more than 300 taxes and fees on businesses in 2004 to help solve a budget deficit.

That's one reason Illinois business groups gave Obama a low rating, while labor groups praised him. But even Obama's allies say he refused to become a rubber stamp for their legislation.

Obama took on tough issues and demonstrated he could work with the other side:

During his last two years, Democrats controlled the chamber and he was the go-to guy on a variety of issues. He helped pass legislation overhauling Illinois' troubled capital punishment system and was a key figure in requiring a massive statewide study of traffic stops to look for signs of racial profiling. Although police groups opposed the legislation, they say Obama listened to their concerns and accepted some of their suggestions to improve the bill.

Even when he was in the political minority, Obama sometimes played a critical role. He helped write one of the rare ethics laws in a state known for government corruption and worked on welfare reform with Republicans.

He stood up for gays, the poor and average working people:

He sponsored legislation to bar job and housing discrimination against gays, and he helped create a state version of the earned income tax credit for the poor. Obama also led efforts to reject federal rules that would have put workers' overtime checks in jeopardy.

Some key votes:

  • Voted to end $300 million worth of tax breaks for businesses. (2004)
  • Voted for having Illinois endorse embryonic stem cell research. (2004)
  • Voted against restrictions on public funding of abortion. (2000)
  • Successfully co-sponsored a prescription drug discount buying club program for seniors and the disabled. (2003)
  • Unsuccessfully co-sponsored ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. The measure became law after Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. (2003)
  • Successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform called the Gift Ban Act. (1998)

The bottom line is that Obama's got plenty of substance to match the style, he has stood up for progressive causes throughout his career, and he can lead us to a huge victory in November.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (7)

Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

A July, 2007 New York Times article outlining Obama's accomplishments from 1996-2004?

And you think this old news is going to carry a wave of new Blue shirts into Congress that wouldn't already be carried by a Clinton presidency?

I believe the opposite, that America will more likely choose to put strong, fiscally-conservative congress-critters in to counter the inexperienced Obama - and yes, American voters still see him as relatively inexperienced -- your outline of his state senate accomplishments which ended in 2004 notwithstanding...

Steve Crickmore[TypeKey Profile Page]:

The exit poll of those who voted on Tuesday in New Hampshire... showed that Democrats are still looking for change (54 percent) over experience (19 percent) and that they overwhelmingly associate Mr. Obama with the former and Mrs. Clinton with the latter.

I agree this campaign is largely about perceptions...So far Lee you have written a lot about debunking Obama as the change candidate..while no one has written a post puncturing Clinton's self proclaimed executive experience another name which some might give for record of blunders.(wink) Frankly I would rather have Obama's relatively blank slate than include...what the Republicans are going to remind the American public about Hillary's years in the White House..She can try and reinvent herself for three more weeks but she is going to face a blizzard of criticism on the 'Billary experience' for the duration, if she wins the nomination.

Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

Still looking for New Hampshire polls that are correct? Good luck.

Obviously this one is irrelevant, Steve, since Clinton won the New Hampshire primary.

NH voters wanted change, and they gave Hillary the nod over Obama.

Steve Crickmore:

Still looking for New Hampshire polls that are correct? Good luck

These exit polls leave a lot of questions unaswered... I am not alleging anything yet. Dems have not done this before with Diebold, but if the patchwork way they did the actual voting in NH decided a national election I wouldn't be 100% confident, even if Obama won... Remember Ohio in 2004 with Diebold. Maybe the Iowa caucuses where people yell in their choices is the least controversial. Request For NH Recount Granted "Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Albert Howard had requested and been granted a recount."

The picture is initially less clear with Clinton and Obama. Looking at the vote town by town, Clinton decidedly won more of those that used (Diebold) AccuVote, winning 66 of these municipalities to Obama's 45. Obama won more of the hand-counts, taking 83 towns to Clinton's 39. In fact, their voting percentages were almost exactly reversed: Clinton won 46% of the hand-count vote to Obama's 54%. Out of the machine counts, Clinton took 53% while Obama won 48%.

Lee Ward:

You know, I wondered how long before the Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich level of fanaticism would start creeping into the Obamatrons' modus operandi.

Men from space! Men from space! *wink


The more I read about Obama, it becomes apparent that his resume is very, very thin.

These are some facts that I have learned recently;

1. As chair to a senate sub committee on European Relations - he did not call any meeting - except two to deal with ambassador appointments.
2. it appears that his IL senate accomplishments in which he played a major role - campaign finance ethics and taping of confessions - while impressive - are not monetary, business type of issues . I hear some things about his child health care - but what I found by reading, it had to do with a child income tax credit.

3. His bill on mandatory reporting of nucelar waste seepage was watered down - largely because of the money he takes from EXELON execs who gave him money and raise money for him. This was written about as early as 2006 by Harpers Magazine. He also reported in Iowa and NV, that this bill was passed, based on his leadership, but this relatively toothless bill is stuck in committee.
4. He's a lawyer that never tried a case.
5. I can't find too much about what he accomplished as a community organizer - except the Altgeld Gardens thing that he wrote about in his book.
6. The reports are coming that he can not give an inspirational speed that is not on a teleprompter. Apparenetly, at the Jackson dinner, he spoke from his notes and strayed from his text on index cards - and descended into the same partisan rhetoric that other politicians use.
7. From the last two debates, it's apparent that all he does is either agree with Clinton's answer and expands on a higher level - or he attacks her positions. He doesn't seem to intorduce any meat on his own.
8. I agree that I would not call some his speech copying plagerism - but he even borrowed the title of his book from his pastor. I know that one of his freqently used lines about getting ouy of IRAQ is borrowed from Senator Webb.

I am beginning to think Obama is a marketing creation.


"I am beginning to think Obama is a marketing creation."

Yes, so am I. Next question...who is behind the marketing and what is THEIR true motive?

Like you, MaryOK, I'm on the hunt for more FACTS since nobody seems to be willing to put them out there in the front for all to see, hear, and read.

I want to cast a TRULY educated vote so I can sleep peacefully with a clear conscience and not toss and turn over the regret for following the rest of the crowd as many did in the last couple of elections and appear to me to be doing in this primary election.

My vote DOES count when it comes to my own conscience.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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